Lessons Learned from Shoveling Snow

Written by Coach Kenny Simpson

A while back in Arkansas we were hit with about 18 inches of snow.  This is not common for me or our state, and after we had a ton of fun, we realized that in order to get out to get back to the real world, we would have to clear off our long, uphill driveway.  As you can imagine, we are not expert snow shovelers. 

Eventually, the job was done, but as I spent a few hours doing a job I was uncomfortable with, it caused me to reflect on some “lessons learned while shoveling snow”:

1)    The job seemed overwhelming

We have a long driveway that slopes upward, and it had over a foot of snow and ice covering it.  My first instinct was to tell my wife we could just stay inside until it melted and hope for the best.  Ramen noodles for a week couldn’t be too bad, right?.  As I looked at what we were going to need to do with limited tools and no experience, the temptation was real to simply go back in the house.

How often does this happen as we get our first head coaching job, and as soon as the rush wears off we realize how much needs to be done?  I’d suggest that is one of the reasons many burn out or fail early in their career.  The job can overwhelm us to the point we don’t know what to do and cannot create a plan of action.  Many times as a head coach problems seem to spring up from every direction, especially when we don’t have a clear plan.

 2)    We needed the right tools

As I mentioned, we are not accustomed to snow.  So, the first thing I did was take my truck (thank you for 4-wheel drive) to the local hardware store to get some shovels.  Fortunately, they had one shovel left, and even though it wasn’t a real snow shovel, it at least had a squared-off surface.  At one point before we could get out, we had used a rake, a mop, and even a broom to help clear a path just to get our animals outside.

As a football coach, we don’t often get to control the tools we have from our support system, but we can control the tools we gain by learning the different aspects of coaching.  We can grow and improve in communication, organization and of course, we can always grow in our knowledge of the game.  If we are not working hard in the off-season to improve our skills, we will be the crazy guy trying to rake snow off his porch with a broom.

3)    Don’t look back

About an hour into the job, I felt like we’d moved a ton of snow.  My back hurt, I was tired and felt like we should be close to finished.  Instead, I looked back and noticed I’d moved about 1/20th of the snow and had barely cleared a small path.  I felt if that is all I had accomplished with that much work, I would never be done!  The reality was that I had to try two or three different methods to find the answer.

As a coach, it can be great to learn from the past, but often looking back and realizing all the work that produced little results can cause doubt and fear.  There is no replacement for experience and often as coaches, we have to learn by trying different methods.  This can lead to some doubt as we find what works for us and for our program. 

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